Six North Atlantic right whales found dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

4th Jul 2017

Dr.Pierre-Yves Dumont collects samples from a dead right whale in the Gulf of St.Lawrence.

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the world's most endangered species of large whale. It was a whale that was hunted to the brink of extinction by commercial whalers in the early 1900s. North Atlantic right whales now occur exclusively along the east coast of the United States and Canada. Today the North Atlantic right whale population is still in decline due to a reduction in calf production and increased mortality rates due to ship strikes and entanglement with fishing gear.

Last week there were reports of six North Atlantic right whales floating dead in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This string of deaths was seen to be unprecedented amounting to more than 1% of the believed 500 individuals left on earth. With a declining population every individual counts. 

The Marine Animal Response Society were able to retrieve and conduct necropsies on three of the individuals. Preliminary observations suggest that two of the animals sustained a blunt force trauma although it is unknown whether there were underlying conditions that caused these collisions to occur. The third individual had a chronic entanglement with floating debris. There is now a sense of urgency to really understand what is going on with these animals as the species has only recently been spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence raising questions about whether environmental factors could have played a role.

The Marine Animal Response Society have posted a video providing an update on these animals please check it out on a link below:

Marine Animal Response Society Video